A Travellerspoint blog

September 2019

Dad-Daughter Derring-Do in Dublin, Part 1

Never promise to go on a trip after an afternoon of drinking margaritas.

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Or, just eight months later, you might find yourself -- as I did -- careering around an ancient city with 4-foot-wide cobblestone streets in a 6-foot-wide car with a 72-year-old man wearing a hearing aid and yelling at the top of his lungs, "Beep! BEEP! BEEEEEPPPPPPP!!!!" as a polite way to let you know that you just took out yet another road sign / mailbox / bicyclist with your Zippy Starfire, as he charmingly refers to the Opel Zafira you rented.

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Of course, it's a miracle that Dad even made it to Ireland. I'd booked him a flight from Pittsburgh to New York, where we planned to meet up at the airport and then travel together (on a different airline) to Dublin. When travel day arrived, it was a gorgeous April afternoon, and the sky was a vivid shade of blue, which I remember very clearly because I'd looked up to it and wailed, "Why, God, WHY???" when his flight out of Pittsburgh was abruptly cancelled due to high winds -- forcing him to lose a day of his vacation and forcing me to set off for Dublin without him, but not before re-booking him on the next available flight . . . for the bargain price of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

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[Side note: He's offered countless times to pay me back. Naturally I've refused, not because I don't need the money, but because if he pays me back, then I cannot bring up that ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS every. single. time. I speak to him for the rest of my natural life or until I pay off the credit card, whichever comes first.]

Anyway. I arrived in Dublin, picked up my not-so-little red Zippy, and set off for the apartment I'd rented in trendy Temple Bar. I've driven on the left countless times in the Caribbean, but this was my first attempt at driving on the left with the steering wheel on the right. It was also my first time trying to navigate a tangle of tiny, one-way streets -- not a single one of which has a street sign larger than 12-point type, all conveniently placed on the sides of buildings roughly three stories up -- using a GPS that gave all directions in meters and had a severe case of Tourette's: "Turn left on--- Turn right on Fishamble--- turn left on Fish--- turn left--- right! left!--- Turn left on Whitefriar--- Make a u-turn--- Fishamb--- Turn--- Turn right on Whitefr--- Golden--- left on Whitefri-- U-tur---Goldfriar--" All while the map spun wildly in circles and while I was on the phone with the owner of the apartment, who was trying to guide me as I helpfully hollered into the phone, "I'm near a pub! No, a church! And now another church! And now a pub!" Eventually I'd spent so much time driving around in circles that things actually started to look familiar but, unfortunately, none of those now-familiar sights was the apartment I was searching for. Finally, defeated and near tears, I found not the apartment, but the owner of the apartment, Ruth, standing on the sidewalk (near both a church and a pub, I might add), and begged her to slide into the driver's seat.

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Do you know what happens when someone who's never driven an automatic in her life tries to drive one? Pretty much the same thing as when someone who's never driven a stick-shift before attempts to do so, only instead of a burned-out clutch, you end up with a burned-out brake pedal . . . and whiplash. For her part, Ruth just kept mumbling over and over, "There's wine at the house. There's wine at the house. There's wine at the house."

Finally, incredibly, we made it to the apartment in Adelaide Square, just steps from St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Stephen's Green. I'd chosen the apartment because it had an attached garage for the car, so we could tour the countryside the during the day, as well as a central location so we could easily walk to dinner in the evenings after a long day of sightseeing.

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By now I'd been travelling since the night before, so at long last I kicked off my shoes and sank into the comfy couch. After checking in with family and friends, I noted that the weather had deteriorated, culminating in an afternoon to match my mood.

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Still, I needed to explore the neighborhood to get my bearings and, more importantly, I needed a stiff drink and a warm meal. The Swan was just a block away, and because the happy hour rush hadn't started yet, I had my choice of seats and was welcomed like an old friend.

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An authentic Victorian pub that is descended from a medieval inn, there has been a continuous license on or close to the site of The Swan since 1661, when Sir Francis Aungier developed what was then Dublin’s widest street. (And still not wide enough to accommodate a car.)

There, I discovered my new favorite sandwich, the Irish toastie, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich featuring four of Ireland's most famous ingredients -- Irish bread, Kerrygold butter, cheddar cheese, and traditional Irish ham -- all toasted to gooey perfection and usually served as a mid-day or late-night snack. That's right, a full-sized grilled ham and cheese sandwich as a snack. I knew I was going to like this country.

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I also discovered that the Irish really know how to mix a drink . . . because they let you do it. Order, say, a gin & tonic or a Jack & Ginger, and you're served a glass of the spirit along with a small bottle of the mixer, so that you can mix the drink to your desired strength. As someone who routinely finds her drinks either too weak or nostril-searingly strong, this simple, practical way of serving cocktails allowed me to tailor my juniper berry-studded G&T to perfection.

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The next morning it was time to return to the airport to pick up Dad. Unfortunately, however, after the harrowing drive from the airport into Dublin the day before, I never wanted to get behind the wheel again. I seriously contemplated paying a stranger to return the car (and me) to the airport, thinking Dad and I would just Uber back to the apartment (and, presumably, everywhere else we wanted to go). But if I am a bad European driver, I am an even more stubborn one, and so I steeled my nerves and set off for the airport, giving myself 1.5 hours for a 30-minute drive to allow for becoming hopelessly lost due to my stuttering GPS and the non-existence of legible street signs.

I used all 90 minutes.

Still, I arrived at the airport with all four limbs and all four tires, and I was still busy patting myself on the back when I realized I'd driven around the parking garage at least three times and still hadn't found a spot that I could maneuver the car into. I'd chosen the Zippy because it was a midsize four-door (better in the case of an accident, I figured), but the parking spots in Ireland seem to have been designed to accommodate three-quarters of the average-sized car, minus the side mirrors and assuming that you don't plan to actually exit the vehicle. Lest you think I'm just not great at parking, allow me to present Exhibit A:

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After numerous unsuccessful attempts to maneuver into a spot, and even more unsuccessful attempts to find two empty side-by-side spots to make things easier, I'd finally rolled down my window to ask a stranger if he could park my car for me when I spotted it -- a spot roughly as wide as a doorway, wedged between a pole and a car . . . but a small car. I approached the spot, jumped out to tuck in both side mirrors, jumped back in, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

Success!

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Pickup complete, Dad and I returned to the apartment mostly without incident (if you call one grazed curb, three wrong turns, and six bellows of "BEEEPPPPP!!!" to be "without incident"), where we realized that the spot I was assigned in the apartment's parking garage wasn't sized for an actual car, either. Herewith, Exhibit B:

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Happier to have my feet on solid ground than Sandra Bullock at the end of "Gravity," we then set off -- on foot -- for lunch at the famous Temple Bar.

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The place was mobbed -- as touristy spots always are -- but we managed to snag a cozy corner table and order up a Guinness and a whiskey sour, the latter being a surprising rarity in a country known for its whiskey.

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I also introduced Dad to the joys of the Irish toastie.

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We poked around Temple Bar for a bit after lunch, stopping to buy all things leprechaun and shamrock as we went.

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Later, we found ourselves back at The Swan, where I introduced Dad to my bartender friend and we toasted to our first day in Dublin.

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That evening, I'd planned for us to have a Dad-Daughter Burger Night at Bunsen, a cute spot in our neighborhood known for serving burgers, fries, and nothing else. Not only was Dad wholeheartedly on board, but he actually thought Dad-Daughter Burger Night was a real thing (rather than something I'd completely made up as an excuse to go eat burgers), which proves that the apple indeed does not fall far from the tree.

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And if I'd ever wondered if maybe I was actually adopted, that suspicion was dispelled when we both bit into our burgers and four eyes simultaneously rolled back into our heads.

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The next day, it was time to get into that blasted Zippy Starfire again. And it wasn't an easy process -- I'd get in the car while Dad waited outside (we couldn't open his door due to there being .25 inches between car and concrete wall), then we'd pop out the side mirrors, buckle ourselves in, don our helmets, and program the stuttering, spinning GPS, fingers and toes crossed for luck. (Next time, I'll rent a car with a sunroof for easy access in and out.)

I'd planned a day trip to Howth, a bustling fishing village on the Howth Peninsula east of central Dublin, where I'd booked an elegant waterfront lunch at Aqua, followed by a visit to the nearby Cliff Walk.

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Dad had been having trouble walking for most of our trip -- a hip replacement and a heart valve stent will do that to you -- but as we approached the scenic Cliff Walk, the man took off running like there was a cheeseburger at the end of the rainbow.

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It was a pretty arduous climb, but the views were well worth it.

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We'd spent hours taking photos on the Cliff Walk, and by the time we returned to the car, my phone was nearly dead. Unable to get back to Dublin without Google Maps, we headed into Howth to find a pub with an iPhone charger. That required pulling into a bike-sized spot in the nearby parking lot , which resulted in the unfortunate loss of yet another piece of the Zippy.

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(Apparently it's called a lower deflector, which is very misleading since it did absolutely nothing to deflect that curb I hit.)

Finally, iPhone fully charged, lower "deflector" ensconsed in the back seat for (hopeful) later reattachment, and safely back in Dublin, we headed out for pre-dinner drinks at the oldest pub in Dublin, the Brazen Head.

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The Brazen Head dates back to 1198(!), when it served as a hostelry. An advertisement from the 1750’s reads, “Christopher Quinn of The Brazen Head in Bridge Street has fitted said house with neat accommodations and commodious cellars for said business.” Today, the owners have fitted said pub with neat whiskey and commodious amounts of Guinness.

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As usual, Dad was a bit standoffish.

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The weather had been steadily improving since my soggy solo arrival, and it was a beautiful night for a walk. We headed over to Al Vesuvio, a cozy Italian spot tucked away in an 18th-century vaulted stone wine cellar.

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If the obsession with cheeseburgers wasn't enough of a giveaway, the fact that neither of us could go more than two days without some red sauce further cemented the fact that I am indeed my father's daughter.

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In more ways than one.

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CLICK HERE FOR PART 2!

Posted by TraceyG 05:23 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin howth temple_bar brazen_head the_swan adelaide_square cliff_walk aqua_bistro Comments (8)

Dad-Daughter Derring-Do in Dublin, Part 2

The next day we awoke early for a visit to Trinity College. I wanted to see the famous Long Room in the Old Library, Dad wanted to see the Book of Kells, and both of us wanted to put off getting into the Zippy for as long as humanly possible. Naturally, we walked there.

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Officially the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth, Trinity was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Its library is a legal deposit library, meaning that it is legally entitled to a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland. As a result, the library receives over 100,000 new items a year and contains about five million books, making it the largest research library in Ireland. It's also absolutely gorgeous.

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Prior to visiting the library, I'd surprised Dad with tickets to the Book of Kells, a 9th century manuscript that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. The illuminated manuscripts are made of calf vellum (some still with calf hair attached!), while the ink came from sources like shellfish, copper, elderberries, lead, arsenic, and soot from burned bones.

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Eventually, we could no longer postpone the inevitable, and it was time to take our lives into our own hands again with another road trip, this one to the picturesque maritime village of Malahide.

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I should pause here to note that parking the Zippy was the least of my problems. Far more alarming was the fact that, thanks to the "misplaced" steering wheel on the right-hand side, I could not seem to center the car within my lane to save my life (quite literally). I was either veering into oncoming traffic, or hugging the left-hand curb so tightly that by the time we set off for Malahide, I'd already dented the side mirror in Dublin, dislodged that rubber thing off the front in Howth, and lost a hubcap (incident location unknown). But off we went . . . because castles.

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We decided on a tour of Malahide Castle, which dates back to 1185. That's when the lands of Malahide and its harbor were presented to Richard Talbot for his loyal service as a Knight to Henry the Second of England. (All I got for my loyal service this year was a fleece emblazoned with the name of my firm.)

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Incredibly, the Talbots lived at Malahide Castle until the early 1970s, when the final Baron de Malahide, Lord Milo Talbot, died in 1973. His sister Rose inherited the estate and subsequently sold it to the Irish State in 1975, thus ending an 800-year stretch. Ugh, Rose, you ninny.

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During the tour, we learned that this hideous orange paint was quite the status symbol in the 1100s, because it had to be imported from Asia. Rich folks, they never change.

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I'd seen about as much flaming orange paint and frilly bedding as I could stand, and so I announced by royal decree that it was herewith time for our mid-day repast. We set off for the village for lunch at a charming pub called The Greedy Goose.

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We settled in at a cozy table with a view of the harbor.

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The Greedy Goose turned out to be my favorite restaurant of the trip because, for a set price, you could choose either three or four items -- appetizers, entrees, desserts, you name it -- from the entire menu. Naturally Dad and I ordered an app and two entrees each, all of which were excellent, with a special shout-out for the warm honey-and-truffle goat cheese bake topped with crushed hazelnuts, which we nearly came to blows over.

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After lunch we returned to Malahide Castle, this time to explore the extensive gardens.

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After another hair-raising ride back to Dublin, it was time for a drink. In fact, it was time for two.

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We chose the stylish Lucky Duck in honor of making it back from Malahide in one piece.

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(No, that's not a glass of white wine with an ice cube in it; it's the Lucky Duck's Milk Punch #43, made with Venezuelan Pampero rum, agricole, green tea, hemp, and clarified milk.)

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One of my favorite things about Ireland were the little green exit signs, which automatically assume the worst by indicating that you won't just be exiting, but actually making a run for it.

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That evening we had reservations at Tomahawk, a spur-of-the-moment decision made when we'd both spied their wood-burning grill at the exact same time.

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Tomahawk serves its steaks with a selection of sauces, including Jameson peppercorn, chimichurri, and juniper and rosemary butter, all of which Dad turned his nose up at, insisting that dousing his steak in sauce would ruin it.

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Mine arrived with the wrong sauce -- chimichurri instead of peppercorn -- and when I alerted the waitress, Dad took the opportunity to point out that his arrived with a sauce even though he hadn't ordered one. And so I was particularly tickled when she responded, "Oh, this is the sauce we give the people who don't like sauce" . . . and then Dad proceeded to dunk his entire steak in it.

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The next day was departure day, but we had to make a very important stop first.

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Knowing that the car rental company would charge me a hundred Euro or more for what is likely a $10 piece of rubber, Dad suggested that we take the lower deflector to a local garage to have it reattached. Explaining that it just needed to stay on long enough to make it to the airport car rental return, the lovely guys at First Stop took pity on me and glued? duct-taped? stapled? it back on, all for the bargain price of 20 Euro.

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Soon we were on our way back home, but not without a stop in Iceland first.

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Our layover was too short to leave the airport and go sightseeing, but too long to just sit at the gate, so Dad suggested that we spend it here.

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Like father, like daughter indeed.

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Where to next? Roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!); celebrating a birthday in Brooklyn with my sissy (at a food festival -- where else!?); running down an off-the-menu cast iron butter burger in the Hudson Valley; and getting by with some help from my friends in Anguilla. Subscribe here and you'll be notified when a new post goes up!

Posted by TraceyG 05:22 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin iceland trinity book_of_kells malahide malahide_castle greedy_goose lucky_duck tomahawk loskins Comments (8)

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